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Greenberg, J. (2001). Thinking, Talking, Playing: The Peculiar Goals of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal Q., 70(1):131-147.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(1):131-147

Thinking, Talking, Playing: The Peculiar Goals of Psychoanalysis

Jay Greenberg, Ph.D.

A Common Ground

Not long ago, I participated in a meeting attended by psychoanalysts representing a number of different theoretical orientations. The purpose of the meeting was to try to find ways to facilitate interinstitutional collaboration, to break down the political barriers that have isolated psychoanalytic traditions from one another for very many years. We were able to meet because of the climate of accommodation that has developed in our field over the past several years. But still there was considerable disagreement about many of the most fundamental issues in psychoanalytic theory and technique. Ranging from frequency of sessions to use of the couch, to the centrality of regression, to the need for neutrality and abstinence, the issues we debated that day have led to rancorous personal and institutional conflict, almost from the moment that Freud first codified his psychoanalytic method.

In the midst of heated discussions, I suddenly realized something that gave me a different sense of the group than I had before. I realized that all of us in the room shared something that went far beyond the details in dispute. I believe that what we shared is, more than anything else, a value system: we were all committed to the idea that if we talk to people about themselves in a way that allows them to experience and give voice to what they feel as fully as possible, we can facilitate radical changes in the quality of their lives.

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